In your best David Attenborough voice, say “We all know the chameleon is known for adapting to its surroundings by changing color on command…” Apparently Santa Cruz knows these crafty lizards, as they’ve aptly borrowed their name for a highly versatile, rear wheel swapping hardtail.
With its interchangeable dropouts, the 2022 Chameleon can change from a 29er to a mixed wheel size (MX) setup. Running a 130mm fork, this hardtail could be customized into anything from a dedicated trail machine, to a dirt jumper, to a fixed gear commuter. It’s no wonder Santa Cruz’s tagline for the bike is ‘Built for… whatever’!
2022 Santa Cruz Chameleon frame details:
The Chameleon hardtail is made from aluminum, and all models come set up with 130mm forks. The big news here is the Chameleon’s swappable dropouts- There’s one set that fits a 29” rear wheel and another for running a 27.5”. Not only can the Chameleon be adapted to run as a full 29er or an MX bike, all Chameleon models are available with both options.
The rear dropouts are 148mm Boost spaced, and they’re compatible with either a cassette or a single speed/fixie setup. Attached to the dropouts is a brake post mount for 180mm rotors, and SRAM’s universal derailleur hanger. The dropouts also offer another functional feature – With either rear wheel, you can adjust the Chameleon’s chainstay length from 425mm to 437mm.
The Chameleon features a threaded BB with ISCG05 chain guide mounts, and offers adequate rear tire clearance to push into the ‘plus’ category, accepting up to 29×2.6” or 27.5×2.8” treads. The frame includes internal cable routing for the dropper post, and the brake hose/derailleur cable are routed through the top tube but run externally on the rear triangle.
To boost the Chameleon’s possibilities, Santa Cruz put a triple accessory mount on the bottom of the down tube, plus a single bottle mount on top. That should allow for plenty of water/tool/accessory storage options, and further broadens this deceptively simple bike’s horizons.
A chainstay protector keeps your stay covered, and Santa Cruz keeps your entire frame protected with a lifetime warranty.
As the chart shows, Chameleon frames are available in S-XL sizes. Santa Cruz went for progressive geometry and kept the top tube low to ensure the Chameleon could properly shred trails.
There are three models of the 2022 Chameleon available, which all stay within an entry-to-mid level price range. Prices are the same between the 29” and MX models, and the builds are 99% identical except for one thoughtful touch; the MX bikes get 32t chainrings while the niners stick with 30t rings. All models are available in either Yellow Magenta or Slate Blue.
Chameleon S 29/MX: $3749
Chameleon R 29/MX: $2949
Chameleon D 29/MX: $2399
Bonus: Five Custom Chameleons
To emphasize the customization possible with the new Chameleon, Santa Cruz gave five different riders their own bikes to build, paint and ride however they wanted. Here’s a little background info on each, and a look at how their Chameleons turned out.
Text and images c. Santa Cruz Bicycles:
Eric Ackermann works in our factory in Santa Cruz where we assemble our bikes. But in his own time he’s a fantasy model-making wizard. Eric built a Chameleon that could be used to ride to work, then hit the trails afterwards, and anything in-between.
Myia Antone is from Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (the Squamish Nation) and is based in her hometown of Squamish, BC. She is a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish language) lifelong learner and teacher and is passionate about land-based education and language revitalization. She is the founder of Indigenous Women Outdoors – a community-led organization that supports Indigenous women and non-binary community members get back out on the land. She uses her Chameleon to reach further into the forest to find the plant medicines that her ancestors have been harvesting since time immemorial, but she’s discovered the act of cycling is also medicinal.
Mike Hill is a UK-based builder of custom BMX frames, Deathpack BMX. He’s spent a lifetime riding dirt jumps on a BMX but wanted to build an off-road workhorse to carry tools down the singletrack to the woods where his trails are. The Chameleon is a tool as much as the shovels and spades he carries upon it.
Swanee Ravonison owns a bike shop slash organic grocery (Fée du Vélo) as well as a welding her own bikes under the moniker Pariah. She builds custom bikes that are meant for escaping the city and finding space in nature. She took the Chameleon and stripped it “of his flashy dress” and some of the bike’s techy components to make it purer for the kinds of bikepacking Swanee enjoys.
Sven Busse wanted to build a bike that was always ready for any type of shenanigans. Meeting friends at his bar, the The GegenÜber in the middle of Bielefeld, right next to a large skatepark? Take the bike. Need to go to the music studio in the morning. Grab the bike! Lunchbreak in the skatepark? Ride the bike! Scout in the woods? Shred the bike!
The 2022 Santa Cruz Chameleon is available now, check out their website for all the details.